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Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee

John O. Brennan, nominated by President Obama to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a crafty character. Not surprising for a spy.

The Washington Post says that his nomination may generate a debate about the policy of using drones to kill terror suspects, and that there’s some dispute about what Brennan’s position was on the use of torture during his lengthy career in the spook business. But the fact that his own role in the torture debate is even subject to disagreement is just the beginning of this gentleman’s craftiness.

It actually gets much, much more interesting. Brennan’s nomination is a great time for the public—and its elected representatives—to demand answers to a host of questions, not just about Brennan’s values and activities, but about whether the resources of the presidency are routinely used for nakedly political purposes.

Man From R.I.Y.A.D.H.

As Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, Brennan played a central role in two episodes that provided the President with much needed image-boosts. In one, Navy SEALs bagged the numero uno prize, Osama bin Laden. In the other, Navy SEALs rescued a young American woman from Somali pirates.

As we noted here previously, neither of these operations is free of controversy. You can see some of the issues we raised on the Abbottabad raid, shortly after it took place, here, here, here, and later here.

With the bin Laden operation, Brennan has provided a shifting panoply of details concerning what went on that have never been rationalized, and that raise fundamental questions. In that linked article, we reported that

Brennan…was the principal source of incorrect details in the hours and days after the raid. These included the claim that the SEALs encountered substantial armed resistance, not least from bin Laden himself; that it took them an astounding 40 minutes to get to bin Laden, and that the White House got to hear the soldiers’ conversations in real time.

[snip]

Almost all that turns out to be hogwash—according to the new account produced by The New Yorker three months later. An account that, again, it seems, comes courtesy of Brennan. The minutes did not pass like days. Bin Laden was not armed, and did not take cover behind a woman. And the commandoes most certainly were not on the ground for 40 minutes. Some of them were up the stairs to the higher floors almost in a flash, and it didn’t take long for them to run into and kill bin Laden.

Perhaps the most troubling of many troubling assertions was the final explanation Brennan provided for why Osama bin Laden’s body was hastily dumped in the ocean—rather than being made available for autopsy and identification procedures, or buried somewhere unknown to the public but where the body could later be exhumed if necessary (a common occurrence when identity issues arise). ). Here’s what Brennan said: he consulted the Saudis on what to do with the body, and they said sure, good idea to toss the terror leader into the deep.

Brennan, it should be noted, has close ties to the Saudi leadership from his years running the CIA station in Riyadh, 1996 to 1999. (He then returned to Washington and was CIA deputy executive director at the time of the September 11 attacks.)

There’s a great deal of irony in taking advice from the Saudis on deep-sixing a valuable piece of evidence, given questions about the Saudi leadership’s knowledge of what was afoot with the 9/11 hijackers. For one thing, there’s the well-known rapid departure of Saudi royals from around the United States immediately following the carnage in New York and Washington.

But there’s a meatier, documented Saudi connection. If you’re not familiar with it, be sure to read our multi-part piece here. As we reported, in the weeks prior to the attacks the alleged hijackers were hanging out at the Florida house owned by a top lieutenant in the Saudi hierarchy. Is Brennan not interested in that? Shouldn’t some Senator ask him about it?

And why did the SEALs kill the unarmed bin Laden, when it would have seemed strategically wiser to exert every effort to capture him alive? Imagine what stories this Saudi black sheep could tell! To explain why he was summarily killed, we were first told that he was armed, then we learned he was not, then that his fate was left up to the SEALs themselves.

Brennan—who ran the National Counterterrorism Center for George W. Bush while Bush was seeking re-election in 2004 and pushing the “terror alerts” button like crazy—has plenty of questions to answer.

Operation Damsel-in-Distress

The bare details of the Somali raid, aka Pirates of the Arabian Sea, immediately suggest that something more was going on. What was this American woman doing in such a crazily dangerous place? Charity work, OK, but it is hardly standard procedure for the US military to launch such a risky and expensive operation—moreover, three months after the abduction occurred—because one civilian in purportedly declining health has been kidnapped abroad.

Was it simply a coincidence this operation came early in the election year, literally just as Obama was delivering his 2012 State of the Union Address? The media, unsurprisingly, did not ask questions but played up the derring-do of the operation and the decisiveness of the Commander-in-chief. Again, we see Brennan at the helm when an opportunistic military adventure unfolds. Is the timing of this operation a legitimate question for his confirmation hearing?

Even back when Obama was merely a presidential hopeful, Brennan showed up at the nexus of intelligence work and image issues. In March, 2008, around the time that rumors and speculation about Obama’s country of birth began circulating, the State department revealed that the passport records of presidential candidates Obama, McCain and Clintonhad been breached. Subsequent reporting by the Washington Times revealed that those accessing the records were actually government contract employees from two private firms. One worked for The Analysis Corporation, a Virginia company run at the time by Brennan—who was also then an advisor to the Obama campaign.

As happens often in cases of malfeasance, the person working for Brennan’s company was described as a lone wolf, and “disciplined”—but not fired. Because the matter was laid to rest before the “birther” controversy took wing, no connection between the breach and the issue was made. In retrospect, though, since McCain’s and Clinton’s place of birth were not in doubt, it is reasonable to wonder whether these improper accesses—which were never explained—were to find out what government records revealed about Obama, and that the searches on the other candidates were conducted to supply that old staple of the spying game, “cover.”

Flash forward four years. We do not yet understand what role if any Brennan might have played in the still mysterious affair that brought down David Petraeus, the man Brennan replaces at CIA. If you don’t think there are power struggles going on that determine, for example, which adulterous relationships in high places come to light and which don’t—then you don’t know Washington very well.

Unfortunately, it will take a quantum leap in America’s investigative journalistic energy (what we’re about) to generate the kind of heat that might be felt by the Brennans of the world—or their bosses. But why waste the opportunity to grill one of the key players in our ever-expanding security establishment?

May We Ask A Single Question of Our Protectors?

The Senate hearings on Brennan’s nomination at CIA will likely focus only on bite-sized, partisan controversies like the death of America’s ambassador to Libya. We’re not likely to witness Brennan opening up about the highly delicate topics of recent vintage discussed above. But why not at least broaden the inquiry to quiz Brennan on current policy toward murky security matters that are still unresolved decades later? A good place to start: the long-overdue declassification of documents that American citizens need to inform themselves about their own history.

As we previously reported, the CIA has been refusing to release records on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And the new person in charge of declassification at the National Records and Archives Administration is a former CIA counterterrorism officer. In this, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, might Brennan be compelled to do the right thing—and release all of the records in what the government still says was nothing more than the doings of a “lone nut?”

Surely, this is a nonpartisan issue. Who wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their Senator if he or she would push for prompt attention to this shared national concern?

We may not have access to information we need to understand what is being done, right now, in our names. But perhaps we can find out what went on half a century ago. Maybe then we can begin coming to terms with our past as prologue to the strange state of American democracy circa 2013.

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  • sgtdoom

    While I agree with everything Mr. B has written in this article, I think his comments on the Petraeus Affair are clearly out of bounds and over the top; after all, Gen. Petraeus didn’t break any laws, and only the non-lawbreakers have to pay the price, forfeit their jobs and/or got to jail. (Yes, I am being highly sarcastic with this comment!)
    And yet there are still people who, after the second administration of the 100% neocon administration of President Obama, believe him to be a “progressive” (WT-bloody-F ? ? ?)?
    And hopefully I’m not the only one out here who understands that Obama’s mother lived in Indonesia during the most violent period possible — on a Ford Foundation granted disbursed by Geithner’s father (with a genuinely swashbackling work history, always appearing in his role of int’l aid guy in the most danger places around the planet, and a former Naval aviator of derring do, etc.), — and only to leave her posting at Indonesia after anti-imperialist Sukarno was overthrown and replaced with American-trained Suharto, and that Diana Farrell’s parents were also CIA (Geithner and the non-economist Farrell, who was appointed to Obama’s economics council, were two of Obama’s earliest appointees) — must have been like old-home-week at the West Wing, huh?

    • 0ivae

      Regarding the Indonesia connection, it would appear that Brennan’s CIA career began in Indonesia in the ’70s…

      NorthJersey.com: North Bergen man is homeland security assistant for President Obama

      “Keane recalled Brennan having spent the summer after freshman year with a cousin who was working for the Agency for International Development in Indonesia, and visiting Bahrain on the way home.

      “I wondered if he had even been recruited that early,” Keane said.”

      as linked in…

      http://wxxxnews.blogspot.com/2013/01/january-2013-headlines-of-note.html

      • sgtdoom

        Great tip, and thanks for the great info.

        Interesting to note how foreign aid programs, especially USAID, have been used for the benefit of the multinationals, directing monies to build those foreign factories, production facilities, call centers, etc., which they then offshore all the jobs to.

        In Gerard Colby’s outstanding book, Thy Will Be Done (written with Charlotte Dennett), he mentions how Nelson Rockefeller, appointed to the Eisenhower Administration, alters the management structure of OPIC (and other foreign aid entities), making it easier for regulatory capture by Wall Street.

        In Nicholas Shaxson’s marvelous (if depressingly enlightening) book, Treasure Islands, he too makes mention how an aid to Reagan or Bush #1, works in a similar manner (forget his exact name, maybe Zefer, or something like that).

        Also interesting that they are forevering being used as intel fronts as well, but understandable given their usage by the financial-intelligence-complex at the apex of control in North America.
        Thanks again….

  • banber

    Investigative reporters asks questions but I like to answer them by speculating, in fact it our job to connect the dots and come to what likely happened in some of these astounding events like the Bin Laden assassination. First, the most likely explanation is that the SEALS did not kill Bin Laden just pretended to since “covert” ops are, to the press, magical and holy such that whatever the intel people feed them they believe. Obviously if Bin Laden was really in the building he would have been captured alive and brought in for questioning. I hate to even call it speculation on my part–I would say I was 99% sure that the human being they killed–and I’m sure they killed somebody wasn’t Bin Laden. Nor is there any solid evidence that Bin Laden was involved in 9/11 other than statements by the government. I suspect he was involved in some way but we’ve yet to see evidence. Many people believe he died long ago.

    Brennan is clearly Obama’s minder who obviously outranks him.

    • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

      The other day I suggested to my mother (in irony) that we should have Mel Gibson for Secretary of Defense.

      That’s about how ironic I feel about the whole authority structure of Washington, DC.

      I’m more interested these days in finding communities that do not rely on the United States power authority structure, or the fraud that is the US Dollar.

    • Major Martin

      Well put.

    • banger

      We have to add that CIA operatives ALWAYS outrank the President unless, like Bush 1 they are CIA operatives. I know it’s not so cut and dried and I know that there are factions within all ruling cliques but the political leaders we do see and that run for office are rarely actually politiclally powerful. This is why I refused to support Obama in 2008–he was clearly a stand-in for the permanent gov’t–his whole career stunk of being groomed by the fixers.

      We have not had a legitimate government since November of 1963–as long the security services/Praetorian guards can control the Presidency current trends will continue. They can only begin to lose control if the people clearly realize that the security people are in control not the politicians.

      As for the whole Bin Laden farce I have not seen such a blatantly phony operation in my life–but the intel services know they can get away with anything since the controlled press idea of reporting is to take dictation from intel agents.

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  • Anon

    Considering that Osama bin Laden, AKA CIA asset Tim Osmond, died of natural causes in December 2001, his death was published in multiple media in Pakistan, Egypt, China, UK, and US, and it was confirmed at very high levels, then the rest of this article totally unravels into transparent controlled opposition.

    • fatigued

      o how tiresome you are–also poor with facts. “confirmed at very high levels”… you easily make bold statements. Please identify your “high levels”

    • markbruno

      I think you mean CIA asset Donny Osmond, and he played Kaddafi in that movie in your head…. LOL

      • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

        I gave +1 to both of you. (Anon and markbruno)

        They’re both good points, in their own hypothetical way. (The second one is slightly more well-reasoned, and funny to boot. The first one is smoke which does sustain a fire investigation. The conclusion that this article is transparent controlled opposition is not sustained.)

        We are living at a time of universal untruth. The official stories are lies or misinformed reporting. The “alternative” media are lies or misinformed reporting. Almost everyone’s metrics or heuristics for assigning trust come down to personal bias (even in so-called rational scientific consensus).

        When one starts from THAT point of view (you might call it meta-journalism or meta-skepticism), one loses interest in one-upping other humans with counter-points in forums, or getting +1’s from their local mutual admiration society. One starts worrying about why we argue, why we believe false things, and why we stop thinking after our personal confirmation biases are satisfied. And, perhaps, one starts living differently.

        Good luck out there fellas.

        • Major Martin

          This is just a *tad* bit cynical, don’t you think Matt? It is the philosophy of the defeatist.

          It is often difficult or impossible to discover the whole truth but one can often prove that an assertion by a public official is a lie. This is a useful service and I applaud Russ’s efforts to raise questions most American journalists never think to ask. We will be better off if some of them learn from his example.

        • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

          I could agree with you up to the point you said it was the philosophy of the defeatist. Strongly disagree.

          And then I totally agree with your whole second paragraph.

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  • Jimmy

    And let’s not forget the assassination of 3 American citizens via drone strike (Anwar Al-awlaki, his 16 year old son, and the third guys name escapes me unfortunately). I can’t wait to hear the judicial reasoning behind that one!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Reed/100003466519585 Frank Reed

    This guy is evil. Beware of things to come!!!

  • Bbethany7

    Bin Laden was the Lee Harvey Oswald of 9/11. “Eliminating” him in a dramatically scripted raid solved problems of identity, verification of his motives and M.O., or the producing of a live prisoner whose
    revelations could blow the 9/11 story out of the water.

  • http://profiles.google.com/eladsinned dennis dale

    partisan controversies like the death of America’s ambassador to Libya

    How is the murder of a US ambassador–a direct result of our undeclared war assisting Ghadafi’s overthrow–merely a “partisan” controversy?

  • banger

    Look, the security service run the government. Might as well have one of it’s chiefs in the public eye. As for Brennan’s possible connection to 9/11–that was the convenient incident that completely destroyed the Constitution and habeas corpus quite brilliantly. Now the Executive branch now headed by Brennan can kill anyone they think is a threat. People need to grasp that we no longer live in the United States.

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